The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Starter Question

JeffO's picture

Starter Question

Hi all,

I started my second attempt at getting a starter going last night. Following Alton Brown's recipe from Food X Mixing + Heat = Baking I used 1 cup organic rye flour, 2 cups water and 1 tsp sugar. I mixed it all up, put it in an unused Brita jug (uncovered) and put it in the cupboards.

 Here's the question. I looked at it this morning and most of the flour has settled on the bottom. Should I be mixing it each day or should I just let it go?




pmccool's picture


You have a couple of options.  You could just stir in another cup of flour, which will get your starter to a batter-type consistency.  Or you could stir in 2 cups for a somewhat stiffer consistency.  The water content in Mr. Brown's recipe is much higher than most other starter recipes that I have read.  And not having read it, I don't know what it says about successive feedings.  Many starter recipes require 2-3 feedings a day during the first 7-10 days to get the starter established.

Different people on this site use differing consistencies for their starters.  The "Squeeze More Sour From Your Sourdough" lesson by JMonkey in the upper-right-hand corner of the home page walks you through the care and feeding of a stiff starter.  Further down the homepage, in the Lessons section, there's a link titled "Getting Started with Sourdough".  Click on that and the next page to come up contains a link with directions from SourdoLady on how to start a starter.  SourdoLady's directions result in a starter that is the consistency of a batter, rather than a stiff dough.  Whichever route you follow should give you good results.

Good luck and happy baking.


JeffO's picture

So what type of starter is generally recommended? The 'battery' type of the more solid option? 

 Also, when using a regular bread recipe that doesn't call starter how do you do the substitutions? I promise I'll read the lesson as well...



JeffO's picture

One more quick question. Should I be stirring my starter?

Thanks again. 

JMonkey's picture


You can't go wrong following Sourdolady's instructions. I built my rye starter using her recommendations, and it worked like a charm. Her lesson builds a 100% hydration starter (meaning it's a batter with equal weights of water to flour) but if you want a stiffer starter, you can always convert it easily. I give instructions on how to do so in the lesson I wrote.

As far as stirring goes, I've read that it seems to help in the very beginning, thoug I didn't stir with the two starters I've made. The reasoning I've read goes like this: Yeast can live in aerobic or anarobic environments, but it reproduces more quickly when oxegen is present. Peter Reinhart (author of the Bread Baker's Apprentice) now recommends stirring the starter 2-3 times per day in when you're trying to get it going. After it's established, you shouldn't need to stir it anymore.

As for converting regular recipes to sourdough, the easiest way to do it is by using weights. I can't help you out with volume measurements, but with weights ....

1) Add together the total flour and water weight for the original recipe.

2) Multiply by 0.30. That's the weight of the starter you want to use.

3) Figure out how much flour and water is in the starter (if it's at 100% hydration, it's easy -- just divide by two)

4) Subtract that amount of flour and water from the original recipe.

You're all set! You can omit the commercial yeast if you want. The sourdough flavor will be much more pronounced, but the dough will take much longer to rise. Mine takes about 3-4 hours for the first rise and about 2 hours for subsequent rises.

Also, you can increase or decrease the percentage of sourdough starter. 30% is pretty much the norm, but I've seen recipes that use as low a percentage at 15% and others that are as high as 70 or 80! (Never tried that ....)

Good luck!